Public opinion on Israel’s conduct in its war with Gaza is split in ways both encouraging and dispiriting. But easily the most underappreciated is that Americans clearly support Israel when considering the category of information we’ll call Things We Know Are True.
Here’s what I mean. Overall, Americans support Israel over the Palestinians (in this case, Hamas). As David Leonhardt, who analyzed the various polls on this issue, notes this morning, “This finding holds across polls.” A Marist poll has Israel with double the support of the Palestinians; YouGov finds Israel with triple the support; and an NBC poll had Israel’s approval near 50 percent and Hamas’s at 1 percent.
Here’s part of the reason why: “Most people blame Hamas for starting the war — that is, they see the Oct. 7 killing and kidnapping of Israelis as the central cause.… In a Quinnipiac poll that asked Americans who was ‘more responsible for the outbreak of violence,’ 69 percent chose Hamas and 15 percent chose Israel.”
What we know about Oct. 7, we know. We don’t suspect, or feel, or assume, or hypothesize. We know. It’s on video. After a Senate screening of footage from the Hamas attacks, some of which Hamas filmed and publicized themselves, JTA’s Ron Kampeas found the U.S. senators “barely able to shape their mouths into a single word.” The most common response reporters got was to be waved away by senators with tears in their eyes.
Americans also know Hamas’s intentions. This is not mind-reading. Hamas’s charter calls for wiping Israel off the map, and its officials reiterate that goal whenever and wherever they can find a microphone and camera. During the course of the war itself, Hamas officials have been clear about this: Their aim is to kill all the Jews. It’s not complicated.
Where things get murkier, public opinion stutters a bit. Leonhardt points out that the Ipsos poll finds 76 percent agreeing with the sentence: “Israel is doing what any country would do in response to a terror attack and the taking of civilian hostages.” The same poll finds 68 percent support for the following: “Israel should call a cease-fire and try to negotiate.”
Leonhardt says readers should “avoid the temptation to focus on only one of these two patterns — the support for a cease-fire or for Israel’s military actions — and to ignore the other one.”
I agree. Support for Israel’s military actions is based on verifiable, provable events and information readily available to members of the public. As I have previously noted, the pro-Hamas side of the public-relations war relies on suppressing verifiable information—protesters disrupt screenings of Hamas atrocities, rip down posters of kidnapped Israelis, and the like—while boosting unverified and unreliable partisan propaganda. Americans’ growing support for a ceasefire, Leonhardt notes, tracks with their increasing unease with civilian casualties. No doubt the number of civilian casualties, whenever we find out what that number is, represents a terrible tragedy. But there are two aspects of the civilian casualties that are in dispute: how many, and who is responsible for them.
On the latter, Hamas’s use of human shields is undeniable and widespread. On the former, the number of civilian casualties given by Hamas can be set aside immediately: Hamas doesn’t distinguish between combatants and noncombatants, so we know right off the bat they are inaccurate. We also know, from the recent investigation into a failed Palestinian rocket explosion next to a hospital, that the numbers coming from Gaza are purposefully and sometimes wildly inflated. “The Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that 471 people were killed and 342 injured,” reports the Hamas-favoring Human Rights Watch. Yet HRW “was unable to corroborate the count, which is significantly higher than other estimates, displays an unusually high killed-to-injured ratio, and appears out of proportion with the damage visible on site.”
Israel is up against a tidal wave of disinformation, including the increasingly vocal left-wing lie that the IDF is carrying out a genocide in Gaza. But when Americans are considering only Things We Know Are True, support for Israel’s mission is unambiguous.